Picks and Pans Review: Life Is Sweet

updated 11/18/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/18/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Alison Steadman, Jim Broadbent

It's a shame that an earlier Mike Leigh movie was called High Hopes. The title would have been perfect for his latest effort, a winsome, offbeat, ironically titled comedy of people whose big dreams are often dashed at gale force. Wendy (Steadman), a clerk in a children's apparel shop, her husband, Andy (Broadbent), a chef, and their twentysomething twin daughters, Nat (Claire Skinner), a plumber, and Nicola (Jane Horrocks), a lost soul, live and bicker in a suburban London row house. Andy, an amiable procrastinator, wants his own business. Level-headed Nat wants a beau. Wendy, her irritating laugh a coda to every utterance, would like a nicely grouted bathroom and improved relations with Nicola, who has an eating disorder and an epithet for every occasion. Nicola doesn't quite know what she wants.

Themes—the most dominant is food—take the place of plot in Life Is Sweet. Andy buys a trailer to dispense fast food; a gluttonous family friend opens a restaurant; and bulimic Nicola insists that her boyfriend lick chocolate sauce off her body. Ultimately, food becomes a metaphor for appetite—an appetite for sex, for risk taking, for life. The strength of Life Is Sweet lies not in its hyperrealistic dialogue, slender plot and sometimes inconsistent tone but in its flavorsome and in some cases touchingly valiant characters. (Unrated)

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